$n$ Walla Walla City Council OKs review panel for program

Shane Laib and Jim Barrow opposed forming a committee of residents to help provide oversight for the infrastructure work.

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WALLA WALLA -- Council members argued at Wednesday's meeting over the formation of a citizen's review panel for the IRRP, and backed off completely on the formation of a transportation benefit district.

Council members Shane Laib and Jim Barrow voted against forming an Infrastructure Improvement and Oversight Committee, but in the end they lost out to a 5-2 vote of approval.

"I again am concerned that underlining this is a sinister distrust that the city won't do what is right if it isn't watched," Barrow said, shortly before the vote was made.

Most members felt oversight of the IRRP should be performed by the Council.

"I feel it is the Council's job to monitor this project," Laib said, noting that the city recently made effort to reduce the number of committees and also is currently creating yet another.

"This is not the time to create another committee when we just created the sustainability committee, and we are still not off the ground with it," he added.

But remaining members also felt strongly the city had sent a clear message to the public: It would form an IRRP review committee and their work would include financial audits.

"I understand the reluctance for more committees," Fred Mitchell said, "But we need to be 100 percent honest with the public. And we kind of indicated to the public that we would do this."

City staff also recommended formation of a transportation benefit district, which staff reported was a preliminary step that would allow the city to charge a motor vehicle tab fee, additional sales tax and other regional taxes for transportation projects.

But Council members felt they needed a more accurate survey on what fees and taxes people would be willing to support to fund the IRRP. The possibility of forming the district will now be discussed at a City Council work session in May.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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